Star Trek: Voyager


3 stars

Air date: 2/11/1998
Written by Jeri Taylor
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Don't pay attention to rumors."
"Don't pay attention to Neelix."

— Neelix and me

Nutshell: Many poignant moments, though the episode's primary drive is saddled with another cartoon subplot.

"Message in a Bottle" three weeks ago perfectly exemplified the uneasy duality of shallow cartoon versus serious drama that Voyager's fourth-season adventure angle has supplied. Now "Hunters" drives that point home even further. I'd heard a couple weeks ago that "Hunters" would supply the dramatic character-oriented follow-up that I was thirsting for in "Message." So I was anticipating what I hoped would be one of the best episodes yet this season.

Well, like much of season four, I've been left with a generally positive impression—but at the same time, I find myself disappointed that the show still didn't nearly live up to its potential. What we could've had was a pivotal moment in the series' run. What we got instead was a good hour with a number of poignant, important moments but also some glaring problems.

At least Voyager is consistent.

"Hunters" is the second episode in what will undoubtedly become known as the "Hirogen arc," but this episode is really about something much more important to Voyager: the issue of how crew members feel when they receive an update from their Alpha Quadrant friends and families—in the form of letters that come trickling through the alien communications array that Starfleet has managed to further utilize.

Some of these moments have been years in the making, and I think the writers should be commended for biding their time in addressing this issue. They toyed with the idea back in first season's "Eye of the Needle," but by waiting three years before finally making it really happen, they've allowed the opportunity for family and friends back home to move on with their lives.

It brings up some interesting questions, and that's where the gold of "Hunters" lies. I very much appreciated that most of the letters from home presented uneasiness rather than quick fixes, because I suspect that's the way it really would be.

Case in point: Chakotay learns that the Maquis have been decimated by the Cardassian/Dominion alliance. This is good stuff. Not to beat a dead horse, but I think it has been far too long since the word "Maquis" has been uttered on Voyager. The fact that all the Maquis back in the Alpha Quadrant are gone now undoubtedly hits the Maquis population on Voyager pretty hard. Chakotay's reaction to this devastating news is an especially poignant moment. Similarly, the sullen scene where Chakotay informs Torres of the Maquis' fate is one of the episode's highlights.

On the other hand, I still don't think this will have all the effects I want it to, especially considering the only Maquis crew members we see in the entire episode are Chakotay and Torres. Sure, there's a vague reference to "all the others," but when it comes down to it, Chakotay and Torres are the only real Trek characters left who could speak for the Maquis, and they only began to discuss what was worth discussing. I find that unfortunate, because I think there was a lot more that could've been said. I can dream of more dialog: Why not some acknowledgement from the non-Maquis part of the crew? Why is there no discussion about it between Chakotay and Janeway? I might as well just keep dreaming, since there's about zero chance of getting more complex questions out of it. As I've said (too) many times before, that aspect of Voyager is dead, cremated, dispersed, long gone, and forgotten.

But never mind. The true overriding theme is in how suddenly being back in contact with your origins after having been out of contact with them for so long is bound to prove anything but easy. Not only difficult for the Voyager crew, but difficult for the families back home. Chakotay puts it nicely when he mentions that such sudden news proving the Voyager crew is alive is likely to be difficult to those who had finally accepted that their loved ones were gone—especially considering that the ship may not reach home for 60 years anyway.

Janeway's situation makes a great example of this dilemma. The letter she receives is from her (former) fiancee Mark. And with this letter she realizes that the inevitable has occurred—that Mark has moved on with his life after having held on to his hopes longer than most. He has since married someone else. It's not something that Janeway finds particularly surprising; it's just that the fact it wasn't surprising doesn't make accepting the inevitable any easier. Her mention to Chakotay that the letter had such a "finality" was well said—perfectly said, in fact.

The strength of "Hunters" lies in its ability to involve the major characters in different ways. Take Tom, for example. He's hoping that he won't get a letter at all, because he would just as soon sever all connections he had with home. The fact that he has more on Voyager than he ever had back in the Alpha Quadrant is an issue that has a great deal of relevance. I also wonder what much of Voyager's Maquis population thinks "home" could offer them now knowing the entire Maquis organization has been wiped out.

I do have some complaints with the way two characters were handled. The first is Ensign Kim, who throughout the episode becomes his own mini-story, in which the suspense is whether or not Harry will get a message from his folks. I see what Jeri Taylor was going for here, but it's trite and obvious. Very. And it hammers home some larger issues about the whole character of Harry Kim, who is virtually the embodiment of innocent, uninteresting sterility. Harry once referred to himself as "Harry read-me-like-a-book Kim." That's a pretty accurate description. He's becoming as transparent as Neelix, although not as annoying. Garret Wang needs much more challenging material than this, because his kid-like innocence is not believable any more—especially given that the starship Voyager is such a precarious, unusual place for the average Starfleet officer.

The second character gripe is Neelix. I have to point an angry finger at Ethan Phillips this week, who performs the silly Talaxian in a way that leaves much to be desired. Sure, letters from home (even if it isn't his home) is exciting and everything, but Neelix's "cute" joyfulness was way, way overdone. The character was absolutely horrendous this week, transforming (temporarily, I hope) back into the "second season Neelix" who was utterly agonizing to watch. The scene where he reads the letter to "Mr. Vulcan" made me want to slap him around—a lot. And when he told Harry, "Don't pay attention to rumors," in a voice that would seem condescending even to an average third-grader, I wanted to put him into a photon torpedo and launch him into the nearest star (or perhaps a small black hole given this week's premise). I'll grant that his part wasn't particularly well written this week, but this sort of vexatious portrayal was something I'd thought Phillips had left behind almost two seasons ago.

And even though it doesn't matter much, I want to voice one other complaint: I find it absurd that the writers seem to think that no one on Voyager has heard of the Dominion. When Voyager premiered in January 1995, the Dominion was already a major part of DS9 lore. "The Jem'Hadar" had aired almost seven months previous.

But before I shift the tone of this review and give the impression that I didn't really like "Hunters," I'd better stress that most of the human moments in the story worked well for me, including some bits like the nice moment where Seven realizes that even she may discover some "emotional resonance" if she ever finds her way to distant family members back on Earth.

So that leaves one other order of business for a review of "Hunters": the subplot involving the Hirogens, a savage race of hunters who, as Tuvok aptly puts it, "lack any moral center." Quite simply, I could've done without this whole thing, which only serves to shift focus away from the emotional core of the story, just as "Message in a Bottle's" comedy plot did. The Hirogens are rather boring cartoon characters who provide conflict in only the most superficial and forced of ways. They're the typical Bad Guys of the Week (or, more correctly, the bad guys of this week and the next three weeks). Their dialog is laughable, their characterizations nonexistent, and their line delivery a series of grunts and growls. If this is the nemesis we have to watch in the next four episodes, I'm hoping those episodes will be carried by their action and plotting—because the Hirogens certainly won't be carrying it.

The "plot" involves the Hirogens kidnapping Tuvok and Seven from a shuttlecraft (which I think, incidentally, was lost, for those out there keeping track). They're held hostage and threatened, leaving the task to Janeway to negotiate their return. Yeah, right. As Seven might say, negotiation is irrelevant. The Hirogens want to keep Seven and Tuvok so they can slice them up and mount them as trophies.

In the meantime, Tuvok's attempts at negotiation are pathetic, as the writers give him unbelievably inappropriate lines like "Release us now and you will be safe, otherwise we will destroy you" and "If you kill us, our captain will hunt you down and show no mercy." These utterances don't sound like anything that stems from a Vulcan or Federation ethos, let alone Tuvok's character. It's just fortunate "Hunters" has so much else going for it, because the story involving the hunters is nearly a total bust.

In more positive news, I liked some of David Livingston's execution techniques. The opening in particular was nice—somewhat reminiscent of Contact—as the camera looks into the depths of space while a static-laden signal is heard on the audio track. Also, the interiors of the Hirogen ship were impressively decorated and photographed. The Hirogen themselves may be laughable, but at least their sets are kind of neat. And the climax, for all its ridiculous technobabble, was charged with a sense of urgent apocalyptic adrenaline, featuring the latest in micro-quantum singularities as super cosmic vacuum cleaners, which threaten to suck starships into oblivion. Or something.

But I think I've said enough. With "Hunters" we once again have an episode that could've been outstanding, and once again I'm only giving it a marginal recommendation. How unfortunate.

Next week: The Hirogen are in for the long haul ... and species 8472 has a supporting role.

Previous episode: Message in a Bottle
Next episode: Prey

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68 comments on this post

Jakob M. Mokoru
Sun, Jan 13, 2008, 10:42am (UTC -5)
If it is any relief for you: I do not think the shuttle has been destroyed. Ensign "Read-me-as-a-book" stated something like "...the shuttle is empty!"...
Tue, Feb 26, 2008, 6:46am (UTC -5)
I think the whole idea of a race of space-traveling humanoids obsessed with hunting other species for sport is absurd. How the hell did they ever manage to develop the technology to travel in outer spce to begin with, if they haven't the brains to do the math?
Mon, Aug 18, 2008, 2:15pm (UTC -5)
To indijo: What makes you think that lack of moral equates as lack of skill or genius? You don't have to look far back in history to see a state utterly immoral and beastly that achieved amazing technological feats. That is, the Third Reich. They did some pretty amazing things back then, including some groundbreaking work on rocketry, which is quite needed for space travel.
Mon, Oct 20, 2008, 4:33pm (UTC -5)
So no sign of a message for Harry but a download of a message for Tom in progress - fast forward to the end and Tom's message was lost but Harry got one at the last minute. How does that work again?
Wed, Jan 14, 2009, 9:21am (UTC -5)
Brian, the data was said not to be in the correct order - thus there might have been no indication for any bit to be Harry's, while they found a line "Hi Tom," but not the rest of the message.
They might have uncovered all of Harry's message (or just found out that that message of which they had 90% already was Harry's as they uncovered the last 10%), while not getting any more than that greeting for Tom.
Wed, Jan 6, 2010, 5:10am (UTC -5)
I disagree with your interpretation of Tuvok's "attempts at negotiation". Indeed, this is not how a Vulcan or Starfleet officer would talk, but I think it is quite obvious that Tuvok is attempting to appeal to what the aliens might understand, violence and coercion, for it is obvious to him that any kind of standard diplomacy would be useless. Thus, Tuvok attempts to appear powerful and menacing to the aliens.
Mon, May 17, 2010, 9:53am (UTC -5)
I tend to like "Hunters" more than most season 4 episodes, because of the issue of finally making contact with home. It would have been a much more poignant episode, if the script dealt solely with that. It would have been interesting to hear what the letters actually said. Have voice actors read the letters as the characters and then watch the Voyager crewmembers react.

Neelix is definitely at his most annoying. I hate the scene where Neelix bosses Tuvok around in regards to when he should be reading his letter. Neelix's line at the end of the scene ("Now read it right away, no procrastinating, etc.") makes me upset each time I hear it. Who is Neelix to be dictating to people when to read their letters? As morale officer shouldn't he be respecting people's wishes?

I did like the scene where Chakotay informs B"Elanna of the Maquis deaths, but I think Dawson's performance is too cliched. Wanting to take violent revenge, I guess, is expected. But when she follows her outburst with "when we get home." just shows how pointless that feeling is. I think a quieter expression of rage would have made more sense to me. But I guess it can be explained away by her Klingon half.

So, a fairly good episode for this series, but as you said there could have been a lot more.
Tue, Jun 22, 2010, 9:35am (UTC -5)
Well, I'm exactly halfway (22") thru the episode and of the 22 minutes I found maybe 4-5 really interesting and apposite to a sci-fi show. The rest - Harry "Where's My Letter-Nobody Loves Me" Kim, the annoying Neelix, Acushla Moya and Torres with the Maqui... - I could've done without.

Do I care about how this or that makes the crew members FEEL, about their relationships, about complexes? No. If I did, I'd watch Oprah.

Let's hope the episode picks up the pace though I see Kim just entered Astrometrics to find Torres poking around the place. I bet we're in for five minutes of Kim and his "I miss you ma and pa, do you think they remember me; do you think they sent me a letter; when am I going to get my letter...?" Oy vey...
Sat, Nov 20, 2010, 7:54pm (UTC -5)
Kate Mulgrew had two scenes that really showed her acting talent. One was the scene in which she sits down to read her letter and the camera slowly moves in toward her face as it reflects the emotions she is experiencing. (This scene is even more powerful for the absence of any dialogue in it; thank God they didn't insert a voiceover of Mark reading his letter.) The other noteworthy moment came at the end of the scene in which Janeway tells Chakotay about the letter -- the way she holds his gaze, with a sad look on her face, is very affecting, all the more so because Janeway really needed to be responding to Kim's summons to the bridge. This acting was on a par with William Windom's in "The doomsday Machine," specifically his quietly anguished reply when Kirk asks him where his crew is: "The third planet."
Captain Jim
Fri, Apr 15, 2011, 11:45pm (UTC -5)
"Brian, the data was said not to be in the correct order - thus there might have been no indication for any bit to be Harry's, while they found a line "Hi Tom," but not the rest of the message.
They might have uncovered all of Harry's message (or just found out that that message of which they had 90% already was Harry's as they uncovered the last 10%), while not getting any more than that greeting for Tom."

That's all very possible. Might it also be possible that B'elanna lied and deleted Tom's message, after reading it and seeing that his dad was being a jerk? I dunno. Maybe.

And I disagree about the inclusion of the Hirogen subplot being a mistake. While we are all obviously going to be drawn to the bits about the letters, if there were no action at all in this episode, many viewers will judge it a failure. Personally, I thought the proportions of story time were nearly perfect.
Sun, Jul 31, 2011, 9:43pm (UTC -5)
I immediately thought that Belanna deleted the message from Tom's father, so that she could give him the more hopeful message he needed to hear- was surprised Jammer didn't pick up on that also.
Wed, Nov 23, 2011, 12:23pm (UTC -5)
I didn't see this discussed elsewhere, but there's a big plot hole when it comes to Chakotay's letter.

Voyager left DS9 around stardate 48315.6. 'The Search' -- DS9's season 3 premiere that occurred months after the events in 'The Jem Hadar' -- occurred on stardate 48213.1. So how in the hell would the Maquis not have known about the Dominion?

The only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that Starfleet kept the Dominion information under wraps, and that it didn't get to the Maquis. But this seems pretty doubtful, given the destruction of the Odyssey and the fact that the Maquis had Starfleet sympathizers and good intelligence gathering (remember the guy in the shadows in the infirmary in DS9's 'Tribunal'?). And, anyway, the Maquis were based pretty close to the wormhole, and had Bajoran members.

Also, the events of 'Defiant' show that the Maquis had knowledge of DS9's new vessel and put a plan (which was fairly complex and presumably time consuming) into action to capture it. Why did the Maquis think this new warship was docked at DS9?

There are some Jem Hadar tidbits that pop up elsewhere in Voyager. I seem to recall Kes doing flight training against a simulated Jem Hadar attack at one point in season 2, and Jem Hadar show up among the holo-created Alpha Quadrant races (with ties to the Hyrogen) in season 7. So, if Starfleet officers on Voyager knew of the Dominion, are we to believe that this new, huge looming threat never got mentioned to Chakotay or Torres?

I think the Voyager creators just dropped the ball on continuity (again). BTW, the story wouldn't have taken a hit had Chakotay and Torres known about the Dominion because the drama hinges on the alliance and subsequent attack.
Fri, Apr 6, 2012, 4:32am (UTC -5)
Why did they have to let Neelix deliver the letters to the crew in personal (making some silly comments like with Tuvok), instead of just forwarding them to their own mails?
Wed, Apr 18, 2012, 1:02am (UTC -5)
This episode really could have been something special if they had kicked the stupid Hirogen B-plot (along with Neelix) out the airlock, turned it into a bottle show, and concentrated entirely on the range of emotions and reactions of the crew upon receiving news from home.

I really can't stand the Hirogen. Almost as much as the Kazon.
Tue, Jul 3, 2012, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
I would like to defend Garrett Wang's portrayal of Kim -- he has definitely changed from the bright-eyed, over-eager pup to a child who has been abused. He's seen too much, and though he's had the experiences, he's not yet jaded. Hence, I think it's understandable that he wants his parents. Go back and watch him in the first season and compare him to now. You can see it in his eyes.
Fri, Sep 28, 2012, 8:32am (UTC -5)
I just don't understand why all crew members are eager to continue the pointless journey back home if they know it'll take another 60 years! How come they don't get sick of that small ship? Plus, Neelix is always talking about "home" and is as much eager to go to the Earth as other Earth-born crew members. How come the Maquis want to go back? There's noone there to wait for them now except for jail-time. I just dislike the fact that going back home is never questioned by anyone on board.
Thu, May 9, 2013, 11:54am (UTC -5)
I was taken aback by the high quality of character writing in this episode. The dialogue was snappy, believable, and deftly balanced wit and sentimentality. It was a rare pleasure to watch the crew confront previously hidden areas of their personal life. It was almost like the show itself realized the cast are characters, not plot traversal machines. All these compartmentalized feelings finally came out. A subtle turning point for the series.
Mon, May 13, 2013, 12:24pm (UTC -5)
To those who question how the Hirogen would've built the communication array, who said they did? They could've claimed it for their own.

And if they did built it, that goes to show that their culture and technology have been in decline.
Tue, Jul 9, 2013, 10:15pm (UTC -5)
@navamske - You didn't mention that at the beginning of the scene before she reads the letter she looks a bit apprehensive as if she's afraid of what she might find. Then her relief as she begins the letter and smiles and then the slow devastation as she finishes the letter. No sniff, no tears, no gasp... just pain on her face as she loses her hope of being able to regain what she's lost.
Wed, Dec 11, 2013, 7:59pm (UTC -5)
Not only have B'Elanna and Chakotay never heard of the Dominion, but the EMH hasn't either, as seen in the previous episode. If the Voyager computer has Jem'Hadar holograms in their database (as seen by the shuttle training program in Parturition, and the existence of the Jem'Hadar holograms in the Hirogen training simulation in Flesh And Blood, a program which could have only come from Voyager); why does their holographic doctor not know about them? Is he not part of the ship's systems?
Wed, Dec 11, 2013, 8:02pm (UTC -5)
They should have just had Chakotay say the Maquis have been obliterated by the Jem'Hadar. It wouldn't actually make any difference to the story , if they had known who the attackers were
Wed, Dec 11, 2013, 9:42pm (UTC -5)
Better, Adam, if they had said the Maquis were obliterated by *Starfleet*. Now that would've re-injected some tension! (...for about ten minutes, until it was forgotten.)
Tue, Jan 7, 2014, 2:56pm (UTC -5)
The Hirogen, as Jammer alluded, did have absurd dialogue exchanges that indeed held the record for most ridiculous in Trek...until the Xindi came along.
Sat, Aug 23, 2014, 12:24pm (UTC -5)
Ugh. This one was mostly okay, but besides introducing the ridiculously cliche Hirogen, Neelix is back in full-on Jar Jar Binks mode. I don't know why the writers were so obnoxiously insistent on pushing the theme of him trying to prod Tuvok into displaying more emotion. The single best Neelix scene in Voyager remains the one in "Meld" where Tuvok had the vision of strangling him to death.
Thu, Aug 28, 2014, 11:55pm (UTC -5)
In what could have been a classic episode turns instead into a touching but inconsistent one with very nice character moments interspersed with a well done, albeit unnecessary action subplot.

This isn't a good start in learning of the Hirogen. The idea of them being a hunter species is interesting, if not fresh. But as it's displayed here, they come across as simply the big bad tough guys that will be around for some time.

The scenes involving the Voyager crew receiving the letters from home fared way better, despite the par for the course continuity issues. Some really great dialogue and performances sold it with heart and poignancy.

Neelix prodding Tuvok as he normally does is just Neelix being himself. He doesn't do it thinking he's going to make Tuvok suddenly change. He does it because it's probably his way of showing affinity for him. In the case of this episode, Neelix is utilizing his Morale officer position to encourage Tuvok to take two minutes from what he's doing to read what his family has to say. I think anyone in that position, even Janeway, would encourage that. But since it's Neelix, bring on the hate rhetoric.

I would be lying if I said this episode wasn't a disappointment. It was. However, it does mostly work on its own terms and, overall, is still pretty solid.

3 stars.
Mon, Sep 15, 2014, 5:14pm (UTC -5)
I don't hate Neelix, but I do think he handled the situation with Tuvok's letter poorly. He's got to know that a letter from his family would prompt an emotional reaction, and that Tuvok would want to deal with that on his own time, and in private. By hovering, Neelix really was intruding. Now, if he had left him alone, but called him "Grandpa" at breakfast the next morning, that would have been funny :-)
Thu, Jan 8, 2015, 6:19pm (UTC -5)
I get the sense that the creative off both Voyager and DS9 ignored each other. UPN probably would had been oppose to it, but Voyager could had brought up some more stuff that happened on DS9 and even had a few cameos.

The hunting special isn't exactly a new concept for Trek and sci fi, but at least they fleshed out the Hirogen. With it's seven year run I'm glad Voyager was able to touch on theme that went great with it's premise.
Fri, Apr 10, 2015, 8:16pm (UTC -5)
I actually liked the Hirogen. Much like I enjoyed species 8472. Why? Because they're mysterious, imposing and threatening. Ofcourse there isn't much more to them then meets the eye, but a simplistic, physically imposing villain can be entertaining too.
I was never fond of the scheming, sneaky, plan within a plan hidden behind a plot to set a trap kind of villains (Looking at you, Cardassians!). They're too often used for cliffhanger endings (something I loathe) and false suspense. I'll take the physically imposing, simplistically brute species. But that's just me, I guess.

As many already point out, Neelix overstepped his bounds by needlessly pestering the one person they apparently want him to have his yin/yang friendship with. He has no business reading Tuvok's mail, no business telling him when he should be reading it and no business interfering in Tuvok's personal affairs.
I don't even understand why they need a mailman. It's the 24th century and they're on a technologically advanced, but still very small spaceship. Forward it to their private folders in their quarters or something. But I suppose this was the only way they could think of to put Neelix to use. Another pointless job that doesn't really need to be done by anyone. He's racking up quite a few of them.

Some of the stuff I really liked were:
The Hirogen design. Huge, physically imposing and appropriately frightening looking. They did a wonderful job with their make up and design.
Seven's subtle humanization continuing to trickle through bit by bit every episode, this one being no exception.
Janeway's superb deliver when confronted with her piece of news from back home.
Wed, Oct 28, 2015, 8:09pm (UTC -5)
I just watched this again, and I really wanted to smack Harry when he said, "Neelix, I thought you had thirty letters to deliver." What did he think Neelix was going to say? "Oh right, I do have thirty letters to deliver! Thank goodness you reminded me." or "Yes, I do have thirty letters to deliver, but I decided to withhold them just to, you know, be a dick."
Wed, Oct 28, 2015, 8:13pm (UTC -5)

"The single best Neelix scene in Voyager remains the one in 'Meld' where Tuvok had the vision of strangling him to death."

Sun, Nov 15, 2015, 7:26pm (UTC -5)
I've never complained about the Maquis situation. I don't think they would have mutinied or anything like that; they're stuck on Voyager and want to get home as much as anyone else. While they may not be fans of Starfleet in general, they're military too and understand the chain of command. I would have understood lapses in Starfleet protocol (like what happened in Learning Curve), but major problems? Nah, they would get over it and settle into a routine pretty easily; by the second season I think the issues would be over it.

I say that because, while this episode on the whole was very good, I think they did mishandle the Maquis aspect. They may be willing to work together in the Delta quadrant, but they would still have quite a bit of loyalty to their comrades back home. And finding out that your friends are all dead is going to be a huge shock. So how did they do that?

Chakotay was upset about it, naturally. He told Torres in a touching scene. Very nice. Then, once he said that, he was back to being his normal, half-stoned self. No show of emotion at all. OK, fine, maybe he is just an ultimate professional and able to control himself while on duty. But then look at how he acted when in private with Janeway. Poor widdle captain got a dear John letter, and Chakotay is so concerned with Janeway's tiny problem while ALL HIS FRIENDS ARE DEAD! Maybe, just maybe, he has more important problems to worry about? Nah, it's all about Janeway's problem that she had already suspected had happened. We all know who's problems are really important, and it's not Chuckles'.

Torres was dealt with a little better, but I think the acting (and writing) during her scene with Paris was off. She talks with Paris about his problems, which is fine, but then suddenly shouts out that she has sadness too! It just felt awkward as heck. It would have been better if Paris had noticed something was wrong with B'Elanna and asked her about it first. After all, if the two of them are serious, then surely he should notice if she was a bit out of sorts. It would give their relationship a bit more heft.

And naturally, at the end, Torres was back to normal and the Maquis completely forgotten. Instead of a reference to Neelix's party, I think they should have ended the episode with all the Maquis crewmembers having a solemn wake for their dead friends. That would allow the show to drop the issue and move on (as it obviously wanted to do) but still give it the solemnity that the issue deserves.

Fortunately, the rest of the episode was pretty good. Sure it had the traditional last second dramatic fight, but they telegraphed the ending with the black hole bit, so it worked pretty well. The Hirogen vessel was appropriately creepy, and the intro to the show was awesome. They did a reasonable job of mixing up real human interest along with a decent action story. Just wish they could have handled the Maquis aspect a little better.
Wed, Dec 9, 2015, 1:46am (UTC -5)
Skeptical - the reason Chakotay pays attention to Janeway now being single is because he wants to fuck her! His line "you don't have that safety net anymore" was completely his penis talking. When you find out that all your friends are dead, you want at least a pity fuck. He's happy that he now might get that chance.

I also agree with everyone else that the whole concept of the PADDs was ridiculous. You don't need to physically deliver mail or official reports. Just use the Internet to download them to each person's personal email inbox in their quarters.
Diamond Dave
Sun, Feb 14, 2016, 7:24am (UTC -5)
Another strong episode, packed with good character moments and finally tackling the issue of those back home in detail. While Harry's puppy dog enthusiasm gets a bit wearing this is all played out really well.

The Hirogen are a bit one note at the moment - and that note is a kind of uninteresting Predator - and I'd agree that the actioner sits slightly at odds with the more reflective rest of the episode. 3 stars then.
Wed, May 18, 2016, 12:36pm (UTC -5)

Great review, but I'll part ways with you concerning Tuvok. He was just speaking to the Hirogen in a manner he thought they would respond to. It was logical.

I like their ship, their size and "lack of morals". This episode made be think of Tosk for some stupid reason :-)

The way Neelix delivered "the mail" was how it was done back when I first joined the Navy. So, while I don't understand why in the 24th century folks can't get stuff electronically, it brought back find memories. I agree Jammer, I thought this Neelix had left us for good.

I thought the reaction from our heroes during "mail call" was genuine and heartfelt. Some choked up ole Yanks. But I agree with Skeptical, this was a fantastic opportunity for the Maquis to get out of the past and move forward. A missed opportunity here by the writers.

I haven't seen this is quite awhile, but I never remember giving a shit whether someone on Voyager knew about the Dominion or not. This can only be a concern of "niners".

3 of 4 stars for me. Problems, but I still enjoy it.
Mon, Aug 29, 2016, 2:51am (UTC -5)
Ok. Back to humdrum (**)
Mon, Nov 7, 2016, 3:53am (UTC -5)
I get that people don't like Neelix (I quite like him for some reason) but I think the comparison to Jar Jar Binks is going a little far.

That Star Wars movie was the last one I watched and I don't think I'll ever watch another. Mesa funking hate the Jar Jar that much.
Mon, Feb 20, 2017, 4:34am (UTC -5)
@milica: 'How come the Maquis want to go back? There's noone there to wait for them now except for jail-time. I just dislike the fact that going back home is never questioned by anyone on board.How come the Maquis want to go back? There's noone there to wait for them now except for jail-time. I just dislike the fact that going back home is never questioned by anyone on board.'

Thankfully, this would be addressed in a later episode, Hope and Fear:

SEVEN: You were a member of the Maquis. Starfleet Command will no doubt hold you responsible for a multitude of crimes. You will find nothing on Earth but adversity.
TORRES: Well, that's looking on the bright side. Let's put it this way: I'd rather face the music at home than spend the rest of my life in the Delta Quadrant.

Though I agree with you that it would probably have contributed more to both the characters and the plot if the Maquis had been shown to agonise some more over this.

I, too, think that Torres destroyed Tom's message, or at the very least, put it at the back of the downloading queue, so to speak. I thought the final bridge scene where she delivered the last batch of letters implied that she had decided to prioritise Harry's letter over Tom's, because she knew how much that meant to Harry, and that he'd probably appreciate his letter more than Tom would.

As for the final scene between Janeway and Chakotay - HA! I'm glad I wasn't the only one who saw that Chakotay was basically thinking, 'Great, now she's single and has no reason (or safety net) to rebuff me anymore - time to move in for the kill!' And then Janeway immediately manouevring him back into the friendzone. I found a whole lot funnier than I probably should have..
Sun, Apr 9, 2017, 7:20am (UTC -5)
The whole end scene where Janeway and Chakotay lock arms to go to the party- You can totally tell they were trying to build their relationship off for a big payoff at the end but ultimately pooped on it and hooked him up with Seven instead for whatever reason.

I mean I'm no Lifetime movie nut or anything, but wouldn't this have made perfect sense in the end? I mean Mark's out of the picture and all.. what a set up!
Sat, Jun 10, 2017, 12:49am (UTC -5)
The plot about the letters was very well done, with two exceptions. First, while there is nothing wrong about Harry wanting to hear from his folks again, in context of him not even mentioning his fiance, it seems almost infentile. Wouldn't him getting a letter and feeling guilty about moving on while she kept waiting for him much more interesting a provide contrast with Janeway's part? Second, yeah, Neelix. There's being extroverted and friendly and just being intrusive and annoying. He hasn't lost goodwill he got from Mortal Coil buuut he better knock it off.

The Hirogen stuff was just... alright. They really are quintessential planet of hats and while not a rip-off, since they are clearly not trying to hide the Predator influence, it's not a terribly creative hat either. Still, the Voyager crew going against predators could be fun. And they are at least genuinely intimidating, so still better than Kazon.
Mon, Jul 10, 2017, 1:36pm (UTC -5)
I'm hearing everyone's complaint about the letters from home being on Padds, and Neelix giving them out. But to me it makes dramatic sense. I think the whole process of giving the Padds out individually adds a bit of drama, and excitement, to the scenes. What interest would there be if everyone just checked their "email" , or whatever exists then. Not as much suspense, and quiet celebration, or for Chakotay and Janeway, quiet despair, if it was eMail. This way we, as viewers, get to participate in the anticipation.

And even if everyone dislikes Neelix, it seems appropriate as the "goodwill ambassador" for him to bring the letters to the crew.
Wed, Jul 26, 2017, 4:43pm (UTC -5)
"Hunters" is a weird episode - I liked the letters from home part and the different sides we see from the crew but the Hirogen hunters part was cartoonish. They kind of remind me of the Pakleds from TNG -- without morals, very simplistic, although they didn't say like "make us go fast" or whatever. But they are certainly singularly focused.

The ending had some technobabble to get Voyager out of the black hole -- not sure what exactly Janeway & Co. did with some kind of pulse to destroy the station and suck the Hirogen ships in -- not to mention Harry transporting 7 of 9 and Tuvok out in the nick of time. He made it seem like it was highly unlikely that he'd be able to transport them back given the gravitational pull of the black hole but it was done anyway. Oh well.

Must say the Hirogen ship was pretty cool - from the inside and outside.

I guess my big issue with this episode is the juxtaposition of 2 completely different "sub plots". Wish it had done away with the Hirogen hunting part and just focused on the letters and playing out the crew's reactions more. Instead it wasted time with Neelix and Harry Kim's crappy acting/lines.

"Hunters" barely gets to 2.5 stars for me. The balance was off in this episode -- the Hirogen/hunting part didn't start until quite late and wrapped up very quickly with some dubious technobabble solution. The part about the letters allowed some good character moments about the crew's home -- probably something long overdue to hear about, but it left some loose ends (Paris' dad, the killing of the Maquis, and even what Harry Kim's folks had to say).
Mon, Sep 4, 2017, 12:37pm (UTC -5)
I found Chakotay's comment about being fascinated about harnessing the power of a quantum singularity odd.... isn't that technology the basis for the Romulan D'Deredex class Warp core?
Mon, Sep 18, 2017, 6:56pm (UTC -5)
Janeway, with a somber face and mood, tells Chakotay that the man she has been in love with, married to, and with whom she had children, says that he moved on and married another.

Chakotay takes two steps forward and says with a bland expression:
"How do you feel about that?"

Seriously writers? Seriously Beltran/Chakotay?Really??

The aliens were indeed comical as Jammer pointed out. I also believe some of the dialogues were poorly written as Jammer said. However, I tend to agree with Lenny (from 2010) that Tuvok's attempt at persuading the aliens was not bad.

Otherwise I thought this was one of the better episodes of the season.
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 1:16pm (UTC -5)

Mark is Janeaway's fiance surely? Also she doesn't have any children. With that in mind what Chuckles asks isn't that dense.
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 1:19pm (UTC -5)
Janeway! I meant Janeway!!!
Wed, Sep 20, 2017, 7:23pm (UTC -5)
You are totally right, I don't know what I was thinking when I said "married" and "with children."
Nevertheless, my criticism still stands. It is devastating news to her obviously. I can tell that much from her mood since she read the letter and her tone when she delivers the news to Chakotay. Not only is it a bland question for that moment (writer's fault) but the way Beltran delivers it, is as if asking a cashier "How much does my purchase cost?"..
Sat, Sep 23, 2017, 8:04pm (UTC -5)
The relay station looked a lot like the Caretaker array...
William B
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 12:26pm (UTC -5)
First off, Melgrew KILLS it when she reads Mark's letter, and when she talks to Chakotay later, managing to maintain Janeway's emotional integrity even through the writers' apparent attempt to sabotage the scenes through Chakotay's dialogue --

JANEWAY: It was from Mark, the man I was engaged to. He told me about the litter of puppies my dog had, and how he found homes for them. How devastated he was when Voyager was lost. How he held out hopes we were alive longer than most people did until he realised that he was clinging to a fantasy. So he began living his life again. Meeting people, letting go of the past. About four months ago, he married a woman who works with him. He's very happy.
CHAKOTAY: How do you feel about that?

JANEWAY: It's all right. You can say it. On top of all that, I got a Dear John letter. It wasn't really a surprise. I guess I didn't really expect him to wait for me considering the circumstances. It made me realise that I was using him as a safety net, you know, as a way to avoid becoming involved with someone else.
CHAKOTAY: You don't have that safety net any more.

While I don't think Beltran did much with the scenes with Janeway -- maybe he couldn't, given how Chakotay was written as alternatively dense or a smirking opportunist in those scenes -- I think that he handled the Maquis-revelation scene with Torres/Dawson very well. The Maquis material feels incomplete, especially since we never do see Chakotay making a shipwide announcement, or talking with Janeway about what it means for him to know that he's in relative comfort and security, accepted back into the fold by Janeway, when the rest of his organization has been mostly slaughtered and a handful of the lucky ones are in prison. But the Chakotay/B'Elanna scene and her rant to Harry are good moments, and at least I know that (SPOILER), even if maybe too little too late, this *will* come up again (in Extreme Risk). Tuvok's quiet reaction to his family's message is also touching, and I like the ambiguity that remains in Tom's avoidance of hearing about his father's letter and then his uncertainty in dealing with it not coming in. I don't know if I agree with the theory mentioned earlier that B'Elanna deliberately deleted the message from Tom's father, though it's an interesting one; but what I like is the idea that Tom is so grateful for the miracle of his place on Voyager that he can't even handle the idea of looking back, that the disappointment of his father's view of him will be hard to control and contain even when among friends and loved ones. Parents, man. I like that a full range of reactions is shown from the main characters, and that most people end up with a sort of ambivalence about the news they've gotten, grateful to finally know what has been gnawing at them but maybe saddened by the way life has passed them by, and what they are just now discovering they really *have* lost. The quiet moment where Seven is reminded by Janeway that she might have family in the AQ is also powerful.

Anyway, yeah, Neelix is annoying, especially in the Tuvok scene. And Harry's going on about his parents' letter is hard to watch, less because it's that bad for Harry to want to hear from his folks, but because the scenes get highly repetitive and there are no new notes. The basic idea is that Harry has uncomplicated joy at hearing from home, and this contrasts with the ambivalence or heartbreak (or restraint, in the case of Tuvok) that everyone else has; it's important for the episode to have this kind of positivity be displayed in someone. I just wish it were done in a less one-note fashion. (Also, what about Libby? I guess he just assumes they're over.)

The Hirogen stuff is bad and boring and I just wanted to forward to the next scene. As others said above, I think Tuvok's simplistic threats weren't out of character but were indications that Tuvok was tailoring his approach to what he believed the Hirogen culture was, so that's fine on a character level but on an entertainment level it's unclear why we are supposed to care about these generic baddies. I might have had more to say immediately after the episode but I've already forgotten most about these scenes except for a general distaste and annoyance. I think this is an episode that could have simply ditched the action subplot and gone with straight drama (and probably comedy), but I know that this is Voyager we're talking about.

3 stars is fair, I think.
Mon, Nov 13, 2017, 6:06pm (UTC -5)
3 stars

I enjoyed this one. Season four and six were Voyager’s best years and while not that consistent in the way TNG was weekly—they were pretty decent if uneven

Season four started out wobbly then picked up with Raven theory YoH then underwhelming until Waking Moments then it had a decently entertaining stretch up to The Killing Game before going back to the gutter the rest of the season

I liked the Hirogen. I liked the idea that an alien race might see other species as game and prey in much the same way hunters see deer and other animals these days. I also loved the Hirogen design from their make up to their suits. Unlike Jammer, I didn’t mind the Hirogen plot it provided some nice action and much like Message In a Bottle showed the writers being a bit more ambitious by juggling several different ideas and integrating them—the alien network, making contact with the Alpha Quadrant, introducing the Hirogen, letters from home.

I don’t think just the letters from home could have sustained my interest for an entire hour. It was already dragging with Paris’ moodiness and Harry’s whining about his letter And other than Mark the crews’ families are faceless nobodies so no real emotional resonance. I think Jeri Taylor’s script hit what it needed to regarding the crew reaction to letters from home

I also liked how the episode handled eliminating the ability of routine communication with the Alpha Quadrant by having the intensifying of the black hole caused the entire network to collapse.

The time on the Hirogen ship offered further look into this new species. And I continued to enjoy the writers using Seven's Borg knowledge to princess vide interesting factoids like with having encountered a gutted species before but not having interest who did it or why
Tue, Nov 28, 2017, 10:21pm (UTC -5)
Hello Everyone

I generally liked this episode, but as I'm watching them with a different eye than I did during first run, some things stood out to me:

I nodded in agreement with @William B when he mentioned thinking of fast forwarding during the Hirogen scenes. They were almost painful to watch.

Tuvok launched a buoy as they were captured, and we see it fire off. Then, I'm expecting Voyager to mention it, but instead we get Kim stating the shuttle is empty. Did the writers want to let us know they really didn't lose another one, and forgot about the buoy? I'm picturing it hurtling through space, in the wrong direction...

I am in agreement with @Stingray-j about the singularities. We'd known Romulans used them for years in their engines, so it wouldn't be a stretch to think someone might want to use one in a relay station that was supposed to last a really, really long time.

Eh, Neelix didn't bother me that much. He acts as he is written. And with Tuvok, I thought he was just reminding him that hey, you can let that work wait a while. Read your letter. He knew Tuvok would probably wait, even though he really wanted to see it, and at the end of the scene, he did stop and look.

Things are going all sideways, the ship might be destroyed, and Torres is in... astrometrics. I was rather surprised to see she was still working on the letters when her place was in the engine room. My thought was, tell the computer to keep working on them, and go do your job.

They keep saying 60,000 light years. I thought they started at around 70k light years, Kes sent them 10k and they found a few other shortcuts here and there, as well as simply flying in that general direction. Shouldn't it be closer to 50k? Maybe 45k? 60k would imply they'd been standing still the whole time, before and after the Kes fling.

I really thought Chakotay was off a bit when talking with Janeway, though I didn't really blame the actor. Yes, he had to deliver the lines, but they made him sound like Counselor Troi. "How do you feel about that?". A Chakotay response would have been more along the lines of "I am so sorry, and feel your pain. Would you like to vision-quest?" or something. He isn't a counselor, don't give him counselor lines...

I didn't need to hear Kim talk about a letter after the first time. I think it would have been better if he'd just have a hopeful look, then a dashed one when none arrived. It just seemed to keep going. Also, shouldn't Kim have been promoted by now? At least to Lieutenant-junior grade? Hmm...*Janeway to Chakotay: "I'd love to promote Harry, but he can never seem to get a lock...". *

I did think it was neat to see the array fall in on itself when the shielding stopped working. That's how Romulan ships should die when they are defeated, not in a flash like the rest.

Have a Great Day... RT
Wed, Dec 6, 2017, 4:13pm (UTC -5)
How did they know the ship they detected was Hirogen? They had never encountered one before. They had never even seen or heard of them other than one guy on a viewscreen.

Whatever. A blah episode.

2 stars.
Thu, Feb 8, 2018, 5:02pm (UTC -5)
I thought the bulk of the episode was fine (aside from Kim, waiting a long time for a letter and doubting it and finally getting it, and Paris's stories being a little too sappy) but uneven, especially it felt like Janeway, Chakotay and the episode overall were a bit callous in not caring much about the fate of the Maquis, having a lot more attention to that Mark moved on, and indeed ending in oh great Neelix is throwing a party.

Janeway also just seemed a bit too reckless-risky and the solution of how to get out of the confrontation (and its damage then being ignored) particularly artificial.
Thu, Feb 8, 2018, 5:04pm (UTC -5)
As for the Hirogen, not bad but a bit too much trying to be like the Klingons and Kazon yet again, even pretty Klingon-like in very similar ways as the unsuccessful Kazon had been.
Mon, Jun 18, 2018, 10:11pm (UTC -5)
Two things, one a criticism, one a positive note for a change:
1. I disagree with other commenters on Tuvok's attempt at diplomacy. It was very obvious from everything the Hirogen had said that, if anything, what Tuvok and Seven said would make things worse, not better. A far more reasonable line to try would have been something like "We are two critical members of that ship's crew. The hunt would be much better if you returned us to it, unlike the pitiful capture of the shuttlecraft. Or are you afraid to make the hunt interesting?"

2. I was surprised, and impressed, by a nice, small character touch between Torres and Kim .. after she had been needling him about Seven, the moment she realized she had completely misunderstood his presence, and that she had been unintentionally boorish, was great. Good job, Dawson.
Thu, Sep 20, 2018, 10:49pm (UTC -5)
I loved that the crew got their letters, I didn't like the Hirogen, and am distressed to know we've got to see more of them.

Mulgrew did a nice job dealing with the Dear John letter, and the scene between her and Chakotay at the end was pleasingly subtle.
Sean Hagins
Thu, Nov 15, 2018, 4:38pm (UTC -5)
Jammer, I don't know why you don't like Harry Kim. Actually, Neelix may be...unusual, but I don't hate him either. In this episode especially, he did nothing that I felt bothered by. He told Kim to pay no attention to rumors which is probably a good thing so he won't get his hopes up with 30 messages when there were only 6. His "childlike innocence" doesn't seem so to me. You must like DS9 where everyone is jaded!

The Hirogen never seemed cartoonish to me-they seemed scary and the biggest villains created specifically for Voyager (*unlike the Borg). I remember when this came out and how scary it was with these HUGE aliens and all the sharp knives!

My only real concern with this episode is the entire use of the array. Yes, I realise the crew longs for news from home, but let's take this situation: You are somehow marooned in a foreign country and have no modern transportation, so you will have to walk to the ocean and take a rowboat back to your continent (it's a flimsy scenario, but it is the only way you can be years from home on earth). Would you essentially trespass on hostile people's land to use their telephone to call your family and friends? I mean, yes, the letters are nice, but Janeway is essentially risking everyone's lives for them! That seems an unbalanced decision!

Anyway, those are my thoughts-I'll read the other comments now
Sun, May 5, 2019, 8:41pm (UTC -5)
I quite liked this episode, Hirogen and all. And I will join the defense of Tuvok's diplomacy, although the idea suggested by @Gary does make sense.
Mon, Jul 8, 2019, 9:38am (UTC -5)
First, I am a Voyager fan AND I am a definite Janeway fan.... Like ALL ST episodes...including all versions of same....they have a finite amount of time to create a problem, mount a theory and then execute a solution that reaffirms the ‘humanity’ of those plucky humans. THOSE are the unassailable parameters of the ST universe set forth by ‘The Great Bird of The Galaxy’ long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away...😉. Very, very few episodes defy that mandate—usually to their own peril. Having said all that, I think think the acting (Mulgrew) and the ‘finality’ of The highlighted letters outweighs the obligatory sugar rush of the ending. You all are harsh...and, for some reason you all like to bully this incarnation of the ST ‘verse like nobody’s business! I say, Live Long and Prosper, Voyager and Janeway!
Mon, Aug 26, 2019, 4:26pm (UTC -5)
One of the things I've always enjoyed about this episode is the Janeway-Chakotay "coffee commercial" near the end. The dialog and the cadence of the delivery is straight out of 1970s era coffee commercial. Cracks me up.

And Janeway is right, coffee is the finest organic suspension ever devised. Coffee. Black.
Tue, Nov 12, 2019, 11:22pm (UTC -5)
I’m really tired of Kim/Wang bashing in these reviews.

I take Harry to represent the ideal Starfleet officer of the line: professional, competent, respectfully embedded in the chain of command, unfailingly pleasant to all during the faithful discharge of his duty, neither slacker nor rank-climbing ambitious, steady, dependable, honest forthright steadfast and brave...etc.

In other words, a boy scout. And what’s wrong with that? A vast semi-military operation needs a whole lot more people like that than they need forceful, erratic, life-gambling, ego-ridden, brilliant but unstable, messianic captains and rogue commanders.

So he hasn’t been promoted. So what? There aren’t enough places in the command structure for everyone to move up. On Voyager, 60 light years from home, no one is going to get transferred. Besides, by this point in the voyage, the crew works together more as family than hierarchy, so rank has become less significant.

Harry seems eminently believable - and likable - to me in this context. In a way, his above-average steadiness anchors the rest of the flamboyant, conflicted and troubled crew. He’s a realistic emotional center point. And I don’t recall Wang ever representing the character with less than the full range of acting chops required (obviously within the limits and opportunities of the script he’s given).

I also think the writers have a pretty good handle on his character. Not every character has to shoot off sparks. Someone has to be the straight man. (No, don’t go there, snarkers. It’s “irrelevant”. Thank you, Seven.) And now that I’ve mentioned her, I think it’s perfect that Harry is fascinated, attracted to and intimidated by the Borgesse - isn’t that how most normal non-godlike human men would react?

And yes, in this episode, Harry’s boyish yearning for a letter from home was an oft-repeated note, because he was to represent earnest, normal, uncomplicated anticipation - while we knew many other crew members’ letters were likely to be ambivalent and bittersweet, and their reactions more complex. AND I think the writers were weaving an ambiguous web for us: the longer we waited for Harry’s letter, the more I expected the news to be tragic for him. Can’t believe no one else has mentioned that. I was relieved at the end when he did NOT get bad news.

I also think the Neelix-bashers are out of line here. We sensed (I think accurately) that by the end of Mortal Coil, a Neelix (who turned out to be deeper and more complex than we assumed) had barely come back from his eminently believable and affecting crisis of faith. Hyper-vigilant character-continuity nazis wanted to see evidence in future episodes that Neelix was still feeling the effects.

Well, did we want him to be fragile, or break down, or slip back into paralysis and depression? At the end of Mortal Coil, he was called back to life by the thin thread of human need for his services - his care, compassion, personal ministry (in the generic, not the ecclesiastical, sense). And I think, given his nature as we’ve learned it, that was a reasonable and powerful incentive for his renewed grasp on life. (In fact, given loss of faith in gods who are not there, in a vast meaningless universe which could not care less about sentient life, I believe our service to each other is indeed one of very few profound and sufficient ways in which we make our own meaning.)

Given that, I think it’s likely and appropriate that lonely, lost Neelix - who has been adopted by and adopted a family of creatures carrying him ever further from the home which was ripped from him, and the family and loved ones who are no longer there - would, after his Hamlet crisis, redouble his efforts in service to those fellow-sentients. He might even be a little over-bright in compensation for the darkness which may still crowd his consciousness. He might try too hard - and the crew, recognizing that, might be more tolerant than usual because they understand he might still be a bit brittle.

So in the context of his recent crisis, his presentation here seems poignant and textured to me - because we can imagine how hard he’s working for it, and how much this lifeline of connection to this crew means to him.

Cut him (and Ethan Phillips) some slack. I think it’s good work.

Janeway and Chatokay. PERfect. Both of them. Brilliant, subtle, powerful acting on Mulgrew’s part as she absorbs the bad news she was surely half-expecting. Both scenes were powerful. And I think both the script and Beltran nailed Chaoktay’s reaction.

Remember there’s still a chain of command. Remember Chakotay has learned enormous respect for Kathryn, both as captain and as a woman. Remember they were on the verge of becoming, effectively, man and wife when they were stranded together on a planet - that Chakotay accepted their situation before Janeway, is clearly attracted to (but not, I think, head over heels about) her, and patiently gave her space and time to begin to accept the situation and him in the same way. And I can’t be the only one to have read, at the end of that episode, a bittersweet note in both characters’ reaction to being rescued. I think both were on the verge of finding satisfaction, even happiness, in building a life together on the planet. It was somewhat emotionally wrenching for both to go back to business as usual on Voyage, decades from home.

And since that rescue, both have been more attentive and attuned to each other, more personal and solicitous - yet still within the bounds of appropriate command staff decorum. I can read into that both that Janeway reined in her growing affection for Chakotay, and Chakotay backed off (as the principled, perceptive gentleman he is) in deference to Janeway’s engagement to the distant Mark, to whom Janeway’s emotional commitment would have revived along with hopes of going home.

In other words, he’s respectful and classy enough not to crowd her. So when he learns her fiancé has moved on, of course he proceeds both honestly and tentatively. At the same time he recognizes this loss on her part might free her emotionally for the relationship he’s clearly ready for, he is also enough of a friend - and, again, principled enough - not to assume, push, rush, or take advantage. And since both are very matter-of-fact people, for whom seeing things clearly and gathering evidence is habitual before leaping ahead, before he leaps, he first wants to know how she’s taking the news.

In a way he’s being a counselor, because that may be what she needs, and he’s intuitive and empathetic enough to want to offer a friend’s shoulder. He wants to “be there for her,” in any capacity she needs. Hs also wants to know where he stands. “How do you feel about that” is a PERfect line to open the dialogue (significantly, after Janeway has already opened up to him matter-of-factly, with some bravely open misting-up during the telling demonstrating her trust and vulnerability).

She then jumps ahead to where he is: “go ahead and say it, I got a Dear John,” and the dialog proceeds into territory showing they’re both very much on the same page. Both recognize a relationship might blossom again, and that given the situation there’s plenty of time.

Was he supposed to just jump her bones? Was she supposed to collapse into his arms? That would have been ridiculous, and untrue to both characters and four years’ worth of relationship-building.

I don’t think either is infatuated with the other, that either sees the other as a love-of-a-lifetime, that they’re fated to be, that the universe has brought them together - nor are they driven by any combination of hormones and puerile fantasy. I think both recognize they’re compatible, they respect and care for each other - they’re important to each other, maybe each others’ best friend - but they’re not obsessed or mad about each other. They could commit to each other in a solid, loving, mature relationship. But neither of them is going to perish of a broken heart if it doesn’t happen

They have time. The dialog and acting captured that perfectly, enhancing two already wonderfully realized characters.

Geez, the critics here! Please submit your screenplays and screen tests for our consideration.
Wed, Nov 13, 2019, 2:54pm (UTC -5)
Absolutely superb post, Proteus.
Wed, Nov 13, 2019, 6:39pm (UTC -5)
Proteus, just because I am not a strong author does not mean I should blindly accept all stories from anyone who is marginally better at it than me. Yes, the Voyager writers are better than I am at making good stories. But so are thousands of others. So why can't I be picky?

I don't have the time or energy to go through all characters, but let's just look at Kim for a moment. And for the record, I'm not a nitpicky, hate everything type of person. I did think the Seven/Kim "romantic" subplot was a pretty good idea. I don't mind that he is the straight man, as it were. But there are still severe problems with his character.

Star Trek has a long-standing tradition of having two technobabble characters. The "royal smart one" (as SFDebris puts it) is in charge of providing exposition on the weird stuff they encounter and coming up with the solution to it (Spock, Data, Dax), while the engineer is in charge of saying what's wrong with the ship and how to fix it (Scotty, LaForge, O'Brien). Torres is obviously the engineer here. But that makes Kim, the other technobabble character, the Royal Smart One. Except Spock is a superintelligent Vulcan, Data is a superintelligent android, and Dax has a dozen lifetimes of experience. Kim is fresh out of college. There's nothing wrong with being fresh out of college, but you put those people in entry-level jobs, not Chief Science Officer. Chekov had a vague bridge job that made sense as entry-level. Wesley just had to punch coordinates into SpaceGoogle Maps, which works as entry-level. Nog's role was also nebulous, so still entry-level. But Kim is given the job of Ops (nebulous, but we know that superintelligent android Data had the job before) and is seen as a Senior Staff, despite being entry-level.

This gives his character a sense of unbelievability. Sure, presumably the real ops officer died in Caretaker and Kim had to fill in, but we never got a sense of his character within that. He never felt like a n00b in his job, even though he really is. Even worse, because he is not believable as a Royal Smart One, he didn't really get that job either. If anything, Janeway (who had a background in science, and thus is believable as Royal Smart One) had that role in the first half of the show. And obviously Seven (with Borg experiences, believable as Royal Smart One) got the job after that.

Which means, well, what's the point of Kim? It's one thing to say he's the straight man, but this isn't a buddy show or a comedy. It's very much a procedural show similar to cop shows or whatever (obviously more variety though). And in procedural shows, each person has a specific role to perform. But now there's three technobabble characters, and Kim's the least believable, least valuable of the bunch. What, exactly, does he do here? He never grabbed the niche of Royal Smart One because he's not believable at it, and he never grabbed the niche of being the kid (at least in the "work" part of the show, he obviously grabbed it in the "character" part of the show) since he was given such a prestigious position. It made his character superfluous. That's why many people think he should have been the one to go during Scorpion. Seven is believable both as the Royal Smart One and as the kid, and you also would still have Kes as the kid as well. It would have made for smoother storytelling overall rather than trying to justify Kim's presence.

Or, in summary, Kim's procedural role (Royal Smart One) is at fundamental odds with his character role (the newbie), which makes him an unrealistic character. I mean, sure, there was Wesley, but they had to shill him up as a Mozart-esque genius just to get us to barely tolerate him. Kim doesn't even have that.

Next, about him being the straight man compared to the weird character traits. Yes, that's fine. You can have a character like that. But the problem is, that's not his only character trait. The other one was being the kid as I alluded to previously. And the problem was the writers were inconsistent with how well they had him grow out of being the kid. Because let's face it, being the kid is MEANT to be a transitory character trait over time. Personally, I think they (and Wang) did do a better job on this than a lot of people think, but it still was inconsistent.

In NCIS, the character of McGee was brought on to the show as a second straight man (other than being nerdy, he was basically competent, serious, decent, and "normal") in the 2nd season. He also acted as the newbie. So y'know, Kim. Except the newbieness was shrinking dramatically by Season 4 and essentially gone by Season 6. As he gained experience, he stopped being a newbie! He became more confident, more self assured, less gullible. Again, Kim did grow a little bit, but there were many times where he would snap back and be just the kid again. He never truly grew.

Also, even if Kim is the straight man, it doesn't mean the straight man can't be interesting. You described him as being the boy scout. But you know who fits that role even better? Jean-Luc Picard. He is essentially the Roddenberry Ideal made flesh. He is the ultimate straight man. And he was a billion times more interesting than Kim ever was. Sure, the odds were stacked in his favor by being captain rather than a utility man, but still... Picard made TNG what it was. Patrick Stewart made Picard who he was. Maybe it's not fair to compare Wang to Stewart, but the reality is that Kim faded into the background while Picard burst into the foreground (and considering when TNG started they were hyping up Riker as the big deal, the ascendance of Picard in TNG was not a foregone conclusion).

And regarding the promotion bit, well, I agree that it SHOULDN'T matter on a ship that has no real opportunities for advancement. The problem is that the show did seem to think it mattered. Tuvok got promoted. Paris got demoted and repromoted. And yet Kim was the perpetual ensign, DESPITE running a critical department. It made no sense.

OK, I know I said I wasn't doing everyone, but Chakotay's reaction was perfect? So, 10 minutes after finding out that his friends and colleagues all died a brutal death, he... inquires as to the availability of Janeway's pants? That's perfect??? No grief at all?
Wed, Nov 13, 2019, 8:44pm (UTC -5)
I have no opinion on how well the character of Kim fulfills some particular function in a presumed pedagogic compositional formula, whether considered universal to drama in general, or specific to Star Trek convention. I guess that aspect doesn’t matter to me. I’m taking the characters as they’re presented, as I find them - not holding them up to a theoretical standard to calculate what they’re not.

If other Star Trek series prior to VOY had Everyman officers, I don’t recall them. (MAYbe O’Brien, but he’s clearly presented more as gifted blue-collar than as college-trained.) So maybe Kim’s role is an innovation for Voyager, another perspective from which to see the ensemble - rather than a failed something-else.

I guess I’m not interested in the structural genre schematic of the show, just whether or not a character works. For me, Kim works.

You know who didn’t work for me? Yar, on TNG. And Seska on VOY. Whatever marks they were intended to hit, they missed.

I think any comparison between Kim and Picard as Boy Scouts is specious. They’re totally different characters. For one, we meet Picard when he is much older, wiser, and drippIng the kind of gravitas that immediately justifies his command, and inspires confidence - whereas Harry, as you say, is all wide eyes and unproven youth. Maybe Harry would in some imaginable future grow into a commander of Picard stature - but I don’t think so. I could see Harry maturing into Riker.

All three can be accused of being Boy Scouts - but the difference is that Picard has the psychological and philosophical depth, rigor, and will to examine, test, and wrestle with the deep moral ambiguities out of which scout ethics are distilled, and deeply feels the shadows. He’s capable of MAKING moral/ethical rules when circumstances demand.

Kim - and, I think, Riker - are honorable upright officers who intend to do their duty. But neither is the deep thinker, the ancient soul that Picard is. They follow the rules Moses brings down from the mountaintop; they don’t ascend it to face - and wrestle with - God. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

I take your point about the other promotions and demotions, and Harry’s being overlooked. I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe he should have been pipped up. But maybe he fulfilled his duties so ideally that there was just no point.

As for his competence, I don’t recall his being a notable screwup. (Other than occasionally failing to get a lock, or having to report systems down - but we all recognize that critical systems on Starfleet fail in response to contrived plot necessity.) Has there been an occasion when Harry screwed it up?


Chakotay very clearly and specifically does NOT enquire into Katy’s sexual availability. That was my point, made in his defense to others who thought he was too analytical and counseloresque. Ish. Instead he behaves cautiously, respectfully, honorably.

As for the emotional calculus of a day when, after 3 years, a crew first hears the news from home, and some have had to absorb truly devastating impacts...for one thing, we don’t know that it had been “only 10 minutes” in ship time since Chakotay learned about the Maquis. I guess the writers assume we viewers can fill in some of the blanks.

But Chakotay’s response to that news was well and believably covered “hours earlier” (I assume), and we got a double down when he shared it (again believably) with Torres. It was clear during that tranasaction that he felt it necessary to take it in stride “as an officer” (who, with responsibilities to hold an emotionally fraught crew together, may not have time, luxury, or inclination to freak out) - and he encouraged Torres to get an officorial grip as well.

Who can balance relative tragedies, or judge how others are pulled by emotional gravity? Tom’s personal trauma was that he claimed not to want to hear from Pop, then found himself disappointed when there WAS a letter, but it was fragmentary. Even by comparison to Harry’s letterlessness, that seems trivial. But even Torres, who seemed more affected by the Maquis news than Chakotay, had a bit of leftover compassion to sympathize with him - before he (Tom) pivoted to her objectively greater loss and grief.

We have no information at all how (or whether) Janeway had reacted to and absorbed the Maquis news. For all we know, she and Chakotay had found time to cry it out - or, more realistically, for her to genuinely sympathize with and console him.

Or are you saying that Chakotay’s loss was so much greater than Janeway’s that he - or the story - should have ignored hers? “Oh, your fiancé moved on? That’s nothing to what happened to me!” I fail to see how that would have worked on any level.

In any case, we as the audience, along with the crew, had to receive and process the news from home, and consider how it might affect everyone. The script had to present all that business, and move the story along (again, counting on us to fill in some blanks). What Janeway and Chakotay had to say to each other, how their relationship might be changed, was part of that business. The script and the actors did a great job of bringing it out, I thought realistically.

I’m glad Chakotay had enough compassion left over from his own grief to acknowledge the captain’s personal loss - without in any way exploiting it.
Wed, May 13, 2020, 7:57am (UTC -5)
I'm not sure what people around here wanted from the Hirogen. I found the scenes with them genuinely unsettling, as these two aliens stand there and talk about butchering Tuvok in front of Seven so she can see what's going to happen to her. It doesn't get much more sadistic than that, particularly since it's clear to the Hirogen that Seven and Tuvok are sentient beings, and they just don't care. And like last week, the Hirogen scenes are setup for the next few episodes, and the amount of time we spend with them feels about right.
Alexander Weiss
Sun, Aug 2, 2020, 2:46am (UTC -5)
The biggest problem with the Hirogen is that there Predator knock offs. The first movie they appeared in came out in the 1980’s way before this episode. If Voyagers writers were going to do the Star Trek version of a Predator they should have done them in a way that made them more creative or memorable. Since I like the real original a Predator aliens more than the Hirogen. I think the Hirogen are an improvement compared to the other two recurring aliens Voyager created (the Kazan and Vidiians). It still kind of shows species 8472 Is probably the best alien Voyager created. Species 8472 does feel like some inspiration was taken from the Xenomorph in alien but not to the point of where it feels like it’s just a xenomorph knock off.
Sun, Aug 30, 2020, 9:20am (UTC -5)
I agree with your assessment of Neelix -- the "Mr. Vulcan" shtick, the optimism fluffiness -- but at the end of the day, that's on the writers and the director, not on the actor.
Fri, Jan 29, 2021, 10:42am (UTC -5)
A black hole just a few centimeters in diameter? LOL
Sat, Apr 10, 2021, 8:28pm (UTC -5)
I love this ep. ***

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